by Len Lear
I’m pretty sure that Patrick Berkery, 45, a former Chestnut Hill resident who now lives in Wyndmoor, is the only current resident of our area who is also a Grammy Award winner. (I actually Googled to see if I could find any others, and I could not. Bobby McFerrin, who used to live in this area, was a Grammy winner.)
Patrick, who has lived in Wyndmoor since October, 2012, resided in Chestnut Hill before that, and “we loved living there, but it’s hard to be a drummer and remain a neighbor in good standing in an Ardleigh Street row home!”
The stellar drummer, who has toured and recorded with a wide range of artists, plays on the album that just won a Grammy award for “Best Rock Album” on Jan. 28 in New York. The album is “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs, a Philly-based band, and Patrick plays on three of its tracks, including its hit lead single, “Holding On.”
How did Patrick happen to hook up with The War on Drugs? “I had played with the bass player Dave Hartley in a Fleetwood Mac tribute thing that did a few shows in 2010, and I was also good friends with Charlie Hall, their current drummer … In the summer of 2012 we got together and did a little recording, very casual.
“Then a few weeks later, they were in need of a drummer for a tour of Australia and Japan and a handful of U.S. shows … I really treasure my relationship with those guys. They are a ridiculously talented bunch of players with an unrelenting work ethic. And very solid people to boot. It’s great to see all the good stuff that’s come their way. They’ve definitely earned it.”
A native of Merchantville, NJ, Patrick grew up wanting to be a baseball player and drummer until he aged out of one Little League and into another one, “where the pitchers were snapping off curveballs. Once I realized I couldn’t hit a curveball, being a professional drummer became a pretty all-consuming goal.”
Patrick started banging on toy drum kits around age 6 and started pursuing it seriously when he turned 12, joined the school band and started taking lessons. He earned a BA in communications from Rowan College/University in 1996. “I was obsessed with music, so writing about music seemed like a natural thing to me and a good second option if the drumming thing never worked out.”
The drumming thing did work out, however. Starting at age 17, Berkery has played in almost every club in Philly, the suburbs and South Jersey — J.C. Dobbs/The Pontiac Grille, The Khyber, The North Star, Johnny Brenda’s, Grape Street Pub, Doc Watson’s, Upstairs at Tin Angel, The Trocadero, Electric Factory, Milkboy and about two dozen more.
Is it getting harder or easier (or staying the same) to make a decent living as a full-time musician? “I guess it depends on what your idea of a decent living is,” said Patrick. “If you don’t need to live an extravagant lifestyle and don’t mind touring a lot, which means being away from home and family a lot, you can make a decent living. It requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I’ve never been able to make my sole living playing music. But it’s always been a very nice way to supplement my income. I’ve been to some amazing places, met some wonderful people and had some crazy experiences through music. It’s not a bad side hustle at all. It’d be great if it was my main gig, but I’m fortunate for the opportunities I have had.”
Are audiences different in different clubs and/or different cities? “I find that audiences tend to be a little more enthusiastic in places that don’t typically get a lot of shows — smaller markets in the U.S., smaller countries and cities abroad … I think there’s maybe a deeper respect for music as an art form still in Europe, South America and Australia. They’re not just there so they can post an Instagram story about it.”
What is the favorite venue Patrick has ever played in? “There was a venue in Santiago, Chile, I loved called Ex Oz. We did a show there in the summer of 2015. A beautiful old building in a funky part of town. It was a 1,000-seat room, but it was deep with a balcony that wrapped around the stage and stairs. It felt like everyone was right in front of you. And South American audiences are so enthusiastic and plugged in. There was a very connected feeling in the room that evening. Sadly, it’s closed. We were just back in Santiago and learned it’s something else now.”
In addition to playing music, Patrick also writes professionally about music. For the past 11 years he has been the website content editor for GateHouse Media, which has produced content for the Bucks County Courier Times, Burlington County Times and Doylestown Intelligencer. “I’m up early covering breaking news,” Patrick said. “I’ve covered some Phillies games, written some lifestyle pieces, handled a lot of social media and web editing …” He has also written lengthy cover story profiles of famous rock drummers like Mick Fleetwood and Max Weinberg for Modern Drummer magazine.
What is Patrick’s biggest pet peeve? “Musicians who spend more time focused on their social media presence than their craft. And venues with poor infrastructure — bad sound, bad staging — who treat the artists poorly.”
For more information, visit www.patrickberkery.com.